An Act to amend the Criminal Code (victim surcharge)

Sponsor

Status

Second reading (House), as of Oct. 21, 2016

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-28.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the victim surcharge provisions in the Criminal Code to

(a) allow the court to exempt an offender from the payment of a victim surcharge in cases where the offender satisfies the court that the payment would cause the offender undue hardship and to provide the court with guidance with respect to what constitutes undue hardship;

(b) provide that a victim surcharge is to be paid for each offence, with an exception for certain administration of justice offences if the total amount of surcharges imposed on an offender for these types of offences would be disproportionate in the circumstances;

(c) require courts to provide reasons for the application of any exception for certain administration of justice offences or any exemption from the payment of a victim surcharge; and

(d) clarify that these amendments apply to any offender who is sentenced after the day on which the amendments come into force, regardless of whether or not the offence was committed before that day.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Consideration of Senate AmendmentsCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2018 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I am very happy to be participating in today's debate on Bill C-51. I find it unfortunate, however, that the government has again had to resort to time allocation on a justice bill. The bill passed the House of Commons. I was certainly one of the members who voted in favour of it. However, I find myself in the awkward position of actually agreeing with what the Senate has done to the bill, because it very much mirrors the attempt I made at the justice committee last year to codify the nature of consent and provide a bit more definition in the Criminal Code.

Before I get to the Senate amendments more specifically, I want to talk more generally about the government's record on justice bills. While I do have a great deal of respect for the Minister of Justice and I very much agreed at the start of the government's mandate with what she was attempting to do, the pace of legislative change from the Minister of Justice has been anything but satisfactory. We started off with Bill C-14. It received a lot of attention and debate in Canada, as it should have, but we have to remember that the only reason the government moved ahead with Bill C-14 and we passed it in 2016 was that the government was operating under a Supreme Court imposed deadline. There was really no choice in the matter. Furthermore, when Bill C-14 was passed, we very nearly had a standoff with the Senate because of the provision in the bill about reasonable death occurring in a predetermined amount of time. We knew that that particular section would be challenged in the court system.

The other substantive piece of legislation the government has passed is Bill C-46, which was designed to move in conjunction with Bill C-45. Of course, Bill C-46 was problematic because the government has now removed the need for reasonable suspicion for police officers to administer a Breathalyzer test. They can basically do it whenever a person is legally stopped, whether it be for a broken tail light or for not stopping completely at a stop sign. If an officer has a Breathalyzer test on their person, they can demand a breath sample right then and there, without the need for reasonable suspicion. I have seen mandatory alcohol screening operate in other countries, notably Australia.

In my attempt to amend that bill, I stated that if we were going to apply such a draconian measure, it should be applied equally, because if we start giving police officers the ability to decide when or where to test someone, we know from the statistics, notably from the City of Toronto, that people of a certain skin colour are more apt to be stopped by the police than others. If such a provision were to be implemented, it should be applied equally at all times.

Moving on, there is Bill C-28, which deals with the victim surcharge, but is still languishing in purgatory at first reading.

The government then moved forward with a number of cleanups of the Criminal Code, the so-called zombie or inoperative provisions and the many redundant sections of the Criminal Code. That is the thing about the Criminal Code: It is littered with out-of-date provisions that are inoperable because of Supreme Court or appellate court rulings, but they are still faithfully reprinted every single year because Parliament has not done its work to clean up the Criminal Code. As my college the member for St. Albert—Edmonton has noted, it has led to some very bad consequences, notably in the Travis Vader case, where the judge used an inoperative section of the Criminal Code to convict someone. That conviction was then overturned. So these section do have very real consequences.

My contention has always been with section 159, which was brought forward in Bill C-32. Bill C-32 was then swallowed up by Bill C-39. Then Bill C-39 was swallowed up by Bill C-75, which has only just passed the House and now has to clear the Senate. We have no idea how much longer that is going to take. The House is about to rise for the Christmas break. We will be back functioning at the end of January, but Bill C-75 is a gigantic omnibus bill and full of provisions that make it a very contentious bill.

My argument has always been that for such an ambitious legislative agenda, especially if we are going to clean up the Criminal Code as Bill C-51 proposes to do, I contend that the Minister of Justice, had she had a good strategy in dealing with the parliamentary timetable and calendar and how this place actually works, would have bundled up the non-contentious issues in Bill C-39 and Bill C-32, which was morphed into Bill C-75, together with the non-contentious issues of Bill C-51 and made it a stand-alone bill, and we could have done that work.

These are issues that we cannot really argue against because it is a moot point; the Supreme Court has already ruled, so keeping them in the Criminal Code just leads to further confusion. Here we are, three years into the government's mandate, and the Criminal Code has still not been cleaned up to this day. For an ambitious legislative agenda, that leaves a lot to be desired. I heard Michael Spratt, who regularly appears as a witness before the justice committee, describe Bill C-51 as dealing with the lowest of the low-hanging fruit. Therefore, if we had been serious, we could have made some very reasonable progress on that. Be that as it may, we have Bill C-51 before us and we have to go over it.

Before I get into the specific amendments brought forward by the Senate, I think it is worth going over some of the things we are talking about. Among the things Bill C-51 would repeal is the offence of challenging someone to a duel. It used to be illegal to provoke someone to fight a duel or to accept the challenge. We will get rid of that section because it obviously reflects an earlier time in Canada's history. It is the reason why in this place we are two sword lengths apart. Members of parliament in the U.K. used to go into that place with swords on their hips. The bill would also get rid of section 143 dealing with advertizing a reward for the return of stolen property. It would get rid of section 163, dealing with the possession of crime comics, a legacy of a 1948 bill by a member who thought that crime comics negatively influenced kids by encouraging them to commit crimes, and that they were not a part of a good upbringing. The section on blasphemous libel would be dropped. Fraudulently pretending to practise witchcraft is probably one of my favourite ones.

While Bill C-51 is making some much needed changes to sections of the Criminal Code, as I said earlier, we would not be arguing these cases in the House three years into the mandate of the current government if the bills had been bundled up into a single bill, which I am sure could have had royal assent by now.

We did have a very interesting discussion at the justice committee on section 176. When I first read Bill C-51 and it mentioned that this section would be repealed, I read right over it. However, when hearing witnesses at committee, it became quite apparent that section 176 had a lot of very deep meaning to select religious groups. After hearing all of that testimony about the importance of having section 176 remain in the code, I am glad to see that the committee members were able to work together to polish the language to ensure that it would now be applicable to all religious faiths, and not just single out the Christian faith. Now, if someone were to interrupt the religious proceedings of any faith, that would be dealt with appropriately under section 176.

The heart of the matter before us is the Senate amendments to Bill C-51. As I mentioned, it is kind of awkward for a New Democrat to be recognizing the work of the Senate. I value the people who sit as senators. I know there are some very determined people who certainly try to do their best there. My problem has always been with a 21st century democracy like Canada having an unelected and unaccountable upper house. I have to face the electorate for the decisions I make and the words I say in this place, and for what the Senate as a whole does.

I am going to be rejecting the government's motion on Bill C-51, because I agree with the substance of what the Senate was attempting to do in Bill C-51. It very much reflects some of the testimony that I heard at committee, and I have also reviewed some of the Senate Hansard transcripts of the debates it had on Bill C-51. While it is true that the amendments were not passed at the legal and constitutional affairs committee of the Senate, they were passed at the third reading stage. When we see the transcripts, we can see that the hon. senators in the other place were trying to codify what they saw as some missing aspects of the bill.

If we look at the heart of the matter, it comes down to the Supreme Court decision in R. v. J.A. The Supreme Court ruling reads:

When the complainant loses consciousness, she loses the ability to either oppose or consent to the sexual activity that occurs. Finding that such a person is consenting would effectively negate the right of the complainant to change her mind at any point in the sexual encounter.

In some situations, the concept of consent Parliament has adopted may seem unrealistic. However, it would be inappropriate for this Court to carve out exceptions to the concept of consent when doing so would undermine Parliament’s choice. This concept of consent produces just results in the vast majority of cases and has proved to be of great value in combating stereotypes that have historically existed. In the absence of a constitutional challenge, the appropriate body to alter the law on consent in relation to sexual assault is Parliament, should it deem this necessary.

The court in a sense is recognizing the very important part that Parliament plays in this. One thing I have learned during my time as our party's justice critic is that, in looking at the Criminal Code, ultimately, we in this place are responsible for drafting and implementing the law and it comes down to the courts to interpret it. There is this kind of back and forth. When the justice aspect of the government and the parliamentary part of it work in tandem like that, we hopefully arrive at a place where the law is reflective of today's society.

However, it is not only the J.A. decision that we should be looking at. On October 30, which coincidentally was the very same day that the Senate sent the bill back to the House, there was a decision in the Alberta Court of Appeal, R. v. W.L.S. In that particular case, an acquittal on sexual assault charges was overturned by the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal acknowledged in its decision that the complainant was incapable of consenting.

Senator Kim Pate provided us with a message. She said:

In regard to our discussions concerning Bill C-51, I write to draw your attention to the recent case of the Alberta Court of Appeal, concerning the law of incapacity to consent to sexual activity. Please find a copy of this case attached.

The Alberta Court of Appeal heard this case on October 30, the same day the Senate passed the amendments to Bill C-51. The court overturned the trial decision on the grounds that the trial judge had wrongly held that nothing short of unconsciousness was sufficient to establish incapacity. While this erroneous understanding of the law was rectified on appeal in this case, as we know, the vast majority of cases are never appealed. The trial judge's decision demonstrates the very error, fed by harmful stereotypes about victims of sexual assault, that many of us are concerned the original words of Bill C-51 risks encouraging.

Senator Kim Pate is basically acknowledging that there is a role for Parliament to play in providing a more explicit definition of consent, what it means and when consent is not given. While I am certainly one of those people who trusts in the power and ability of judges to make decisions, the judicial discretion, I align that thinking more with the decisions that they make and not in the interpretation of the Criminal Code. There is room in some parts of the Criminal Code to be very specific so that there is no judicial discretion, and that we are very clear on what consent means and what it does not mean.

Turning to the actual Senate amendments, they would be adding specificity in both clause 10 and clause 19. Basically, those particular aspects want to ensure:

(b) the complainant is incapable of consenting to the activity in question for any reason, including, but not limited to, the fact that they are

(i) unable to understand the nature, circumstances, risks and consequences of the sexual activity in question,

(ii) unable to understand that they have the choice to engage in the sexual activity in question or not, or

(iii) unable to affirmatively express agreement to the sexual activity in question by words or by active conduct;

Adding this kind of specificity to the Criminal Code is very much a good thing. In paragraph (b), it says “including, but not limited to”. I think adding that kind of specificity will help with certain cases. From the very interesting Senate deliberations on this subject at third reading, we can see that senators were not very happy with how Bill C-51 left a bit of a hole.

We have made much of the witness testimony at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Professor Janine Benedet did look at this particular aspect of the Criminal Code. As I said in my exchange with the member for Mount Royal, one thing she stated was:

Any clarification we can give will be beneficial. It doesn't have to be an exhaustive list, but there has to be the idea that consent has to be informed, that you have to have the ability to understand that you can refuse—because some individuals with intellectual disabilities do not know they can say no to sexual activity—and that it has to be your actual agreement. Those are all things that can be read into the code as it's currently written, but sometimes are not fully realized in the cases we see.

Adding that specific part would be very much in line with what Professor Benedet was saying at the committee. That is why I will be rejecting the government's motion and voting in favour of the Senate amendments.

Turning to the Senate deliberations on this bill, in some of that debate it was said that R. v. J.A. outlines the requirement for active consent. However, the Senate very much found that without the specific amendment by Senator Pate to Bill C-51, we would have failed to capture the scope of consent laid out for us by the Supreme Court, supported by experts in the law of sexual assault in Canada.

Feminist experts in sexual assault law have advised that the inclusion of the word “unconscious” risks creating a false threshold for the capacity to consent. There were also deliberations that the current wording in Bill C-51 poses a serious risk that women who are intoxicated would be blamed if they are sexually assaulted. They would not be protected by this bill.

Further, some have noted that the weakness is in the definition of what constitutes non-consent. According to a legal expert who provides sexual consent training to judges, there is not enough precedent or awareness among judges to believe that the proposed wording in clause 10 and clause 19 of the bill is clear enough.

I see my time is running out, but I will end with some of the really scary statistics we face as a country. Statistics Canada estimates that some 636,000 self-reported sexual assaults took place in Canada in 2014. Shockingly, it also estimates that as few as one in 20 were actually reported to police. Those are statistics which should give us great pause and lead us to ask ourselves what more we could be doing. The Senate amendments are very much in faith with trying to keep that.

I would also note that this is probably one of the last opportunities I will have to rise in this particular chamber to give a speech. I want to acknowledge the history of this place and what an honour it has been for me, in my short three years here, to have served in this House of Commons chamber. I know we will be going forward to West Block, and an admirable job has been done there.

I finish by wishing all my colleagues a merry Christmas. I hope they have a fantastic holiday season with friends and family, and that we come back in 2019 refreshed and ready to do our work on behalf of Canadians.

Bill C-51—Time Allocation MotionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2018 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I am not satisfied with the minister's previous response to my question. We can look at the legislative track record of the Minister of Justice, starting with Bill C-28, the victim surcharge bill, which was rolled into Bill C-75. We had Bill C-32, which was rolled into Bill C-39, which was then rolled into Bill C-75, and now we have Bill C-51.

I talked about tactics. Time allocation is a tactic. It would have been an unnecessary one if we could have dealt with the substantive provisions in all those bills, but instead, the government's strategy was to basically string us along with the introduction of these justice bills that would clean up the inoperative provisions of the Criminal Code and then leave them in some kind of purgatory stuck at first reading.

When the Minister of Justice took office, everyone knew that there were zombie provisions in the Criminal Code that had to be cleaned up. This has been a topic of discussion for decades, and every year, the Criminal Code is faithfully reproduced with all of these mistakes.

Again, why did the Minister of Justice, in 2016, the first year of her mandate, not take the provisions in Bill C-32 and Bill C-39 and elements of Bill C-51 and package them in one bill? We could have had that passed, done and dusted by now, but instead, they were rolled up with contentious provisions, and they are still being debated. Bill C-75 has only just been sent to the Senate. Who knows how long it is going to take there?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2018 / 4:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member for St. Albert—Edmonton and I sat on the justice committee last year. I certainly appreciated the subject matter we dealt with. It is a committee that demands a lot of responsibility from its members. It requires a lot of maturity, because the subject matter is always very weighty. When we are deliberating on legislation affecting the Criminal Code, there is a real sense that the actions we take when we amend that statute will have real-life consequences for people.

He is right when he talks about the government's slow legislative agenda. I will just correct him, however. Bill C-28 was actually the victim surcharge bill, but it was residing at first reading. Bill C-32 was also residing at first reading. We also had Bill C-38 and Bill C-39. The Canadian public got the feeling that the Minister of Justice, despite coming to power with a bold agenda to reform our criminal laws, was just kind of stringing the public along and giving us little crumbs, saying “Yes we're going to fix this”. Now, we finally have Bill C-75, which I liken to a giant amoeba that has swallowed all of those previous bills, but also added a whole bunch more. We are finally getting to the stage, three years later, where we get to debate this.

I agree with him that some of these bills could have been passed really quickly, like the zombie provisions of the Criminal Code. Scholars and professors have been calling for decades for the Criminal Code to be cleaned up, and we could have passed that bill very quickly, but we are only dealing with it now.

Would the hon. member agree that when we are looking at sections, like section 287, which deals with abortion, and section 159, that they could have been dealt with very quickly by the House and that it is a real shame that we are only doing that now?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2018 / 4:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, section 159 is an unconstitutional and inoperative section of the Criminal Code. In other words, it is one of these zombie laws. I fully support the removal of zombie laws, including section 159.

I am surprised that the hon. member would pat the government on the back for taking this step, given the government's record of dragging its feet. It was all the way back in the fall of 2016 that the government introduced Bill C-28 to remove section 159 of the Criminal Code. What happened to Bill C-28? Two years later, it is stuck at first reading. The Liberals could have passed that bill with unanimous consent, but because of the inaction of the government, section 159 remains in the Criminal Code.

To highlight the incompetence of the government, after introducing Bill C-28, in March of 2017, it also introduced Bill C-39. It also would have removed section 159 and other zombie sections of the Criminal Code. What happened to Bill C-39? It is stuck at first reading. Quite frankly, the only thing keeping section 159 from being removed from the Criminal Code is the government.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 20th, 2018 / 12:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts. This omnibus bill is over 200 pages. It includes major reforms to our criminal justice system.

With a concerning level of rural crime in my riding, the safety of my constituents is a high priority for me. The safety of Canadians should be the number one priority of any government.

While there are some aspects of the bill that I agree will help to reduce delays in the court system, there are several problems associated with it with which I have concerns.

First, I want to talk about the bill itself. As I mentioned, this is a 204-page omnibus bill. I want to remind the Liberals that during the election, they promised they would never table omnibus bills, but here it is. However, 80 other promises have either been broken or have not even started.

This is still on the Liberal web page, which I looked it up the other day. It states that omnibus bills “prevent Parliament from properly reviewing and debating [the government's] proposals. We will change the House of Commons Standing Orders to bring an end to this undemocratic practice.” Yet here we are today discussing an omnibus bill.

It is a mixed bag that amends a total of 13 different acts in various ways. The bill needs to be split into more manageable portions so we can properly study it. What is more is that the government also has thrown in three bills that have already been tabled, Bill C-28, victim surcharge; Bill C-38, consecutive sentencing for human traffickers; and Bill C-39, repealing unconstitutional provisions. Perhaps if the government could manage its legislative agenda more effectively, it would not need to re-table its bills, push through omnibus bills or repeatedly force time allocation and limit debates.

The Liberals are failing to take criminal justice issues seriously. In March they tabled this bill the day before a two-week break period in our sitting schedule. Then they waited a half a year. Now they have returned it when there are only a few weeks left before our six-week break period. This does not give the image that justice is a high priority for the Liberal government.

The government's lack of judicial appointments has resulted in violent criminals walking away without a trial. As of November 2, 54 federal judicial vacancies remained. Appointing judges is an effective solution that is much faster than forcing an omnibus bill through Parliament. I remember in April when the minister talked about 54 more federal judges, yet here we are, almost the end of the year, and still no action.

I also want to talk about what is actually in the bill. Again, some parts of the bill I can support. For example, I agree with efforts to modernize and clarify interim release provisions and provide more onerous interim release requirements for offences involving violence against an intimate partner.

Modernizing and simplifying interim release provisions is an important step that will assist many rural communities across the country that do not have the resources to navigate lengthy procedures and paperwork. For that reason, I support this.

However, I wish the stricter release requirements were not limited to offences involving domestic abuse. With an alarming rate of rural crime in my riding and across Canada, which is often carried out by repeat offenders, we need to make it more difficult for all violent criminals to be released. Otherwise, we have a revolving door where they commit a crime, get arrested, get released and start all over again.

I was at a rural crime seminar in the city of Red Deer last Friday. A former police officer from Calgary city police told us about one of the cases he had worked on recently. An Alberta offender was charged with 130 offences, ranging from break and enter to car theft, equipment theft and possession of stolen property.

At the last sitting in Alberta the judge released him. Out the door he went. Where did he go? He took off to B.C. Now we understand they are looking for him in British Columbia, which has 100 similar outstanding charges against him in a very short period of time. This person should not have been released.

These criminals prey on farmers and elderly people. They know that RCMP resources are lacking in these areas and take full advantage of that. What the government needs to do is to provide our law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to stop the revolving door of criminals in and out of the courts. That is happening constantly.

Victims should be the central focus of the Canadian criminal justice system rather than special treatment for criminals, which is why our party introduced the Victims Bill of Rights. The government, unfortunately, does not agree since Bill C-75 would repeal our changes to the victim surcharge and reduce its overall use and effectiveness.

I believe in protecting victims of crime, which is why I introduced my own private member's bill, Bill C-206, that would ensure that criminals who take advantage of vulnerable people, specifically adults who depend on others for their care, are subject to harder, sure punishment.

Last month, a gentleman from my riding of Yellowhead was a witness before our public safety and national security committee. He shared with us his first-hand experience. It was a terrible story. This gentleman, whom I consider a friend, is aged 83. He heard his truck start up one day when he was having lunch with his wife. He walked outside to see his truck being driven out of his yard. He lives about 70 kilometres from the town of Edson where the local police office is located. He picked up his phone and was about to call when his vehicle returned to his yard. Two youths, one aged 18 and one aged 17, got out, knocked him to the ground, repeatedly kicked him in the face, the chest, the ribs, attempted to slash his throat, and then drove off again. This gentleman is 83. This is still being dealt with in the courts despite the fact it happened a year ago. This gentleman has had to attend court 10 times so far and the matter is still not over.

We on this side of the House will always work to strengthen the Criminal Code of Canada and make it harder for criminals to get out.

I am concerned that portions of Bill C-75 would weaken our justice system. Through the bill, the Liberals would reduce penalties for the following crimes: participating in criminal organizations, various acts of corruption, prison breach, impaired driving, abduction, human trafficking, forced marriage, and arson, just to name a few of many in the bill. Participation in terrorist activities and advocating genocide were deleted from this list only because a Conservative amendment was accepted at committee. Those are just a few examples of more than a hundred serious crimes that could be prosecuted by summary conviction and result in lighter sentencing, or even fines.

The government is failing to take criminal justice issues seriously. Reducing penalties for serious crimes sends the wrong message to victims, law-abiding Canadians and to criminals.

I am also concerned about the wording used in the section that would increase maximum sentences for repeat offences involving intimate partner violence. I support increasing these sentences but I do not support replacing the language of “spouse” with “intimate partner”. I believe both should be included. I understand that not all domestic abuse is within a spousal relationship, so there is a need to have "intimate partner" included. However, it should not replace "spouse". Rather, both terms should be included.

Another problem I have with Bill C-75 is the reversal of protections for religious officials.

When Bill C-51 was referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in January, two amendments were moved by my Conservative colleagues. The first amendment proposed keeping section 176 in the Criminal Code of Canada, while the second aimed to modernize the language of that section. The Liberals agreed to them and that was good, but they need to listen more.

Imagine my disappointment when I read in Bill C-75 that section 176 in the Criminal Code was once again under attack. Assault of officiants during a religious service is very serious and should remain an indictable offence.

Thank you for the opportunity to present my views.

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague may want me to muzzle me, but I will continue reading my speech. I want my words to be heard; I am not here to be muzzled, I am here to speak on behalf of Canadians.

The Liberals were not doing anything and kept defending the indefensible. They said they could not do anything, but in reality, they did not want to do anything. The government could have saved this already devastated family from more hardships, but we know the sad end to this story.

The Conservatives are the voice of victims of crime and their loved ones, and we will never stand by in a case of injustice like this one. We are satisfied that this shameful issue has advanced, but we are appalled that it took so long.

We cannot forget the case of Chris Garnier, a criminal who killed a young police officer. He is currently serving his sentence and is receiving veterans benefits, even though he never served in the Canadian Armed Forces. This week is Veterans Week, which would be an appropriate time for the government to apologize and immediately correct the situation.

Speaking more specifically to Bill C-75, certain aspects can be supported in the interest of victims of crime, such as removing certain Criminal Code provisions that have been found unconstitutional; indeed, the Conservatives acknowledge that this measure will benefit victims of crime and that it will clean up the Criminal Code.

We also support higher maximum penalties where offenders have been repeatedly violent toward an intimate partner, and more importantly, we support the consideration of intimate partner violence as an aggravating factor in sentencing. For that, however, it is absolutely essential that more stringent requirements be imposed on temporary releases in the case of offenders who have committed intimate partner violence.

I think this requirement is especially important because offences related to the scourge of domestic violence are increasing steadily in Quebec. It is important to understand that spousal homicide is often the culmination of violent tendencies that increase in severity and intensity over time. In 78% of cases of spousal homicide committed in Canada between 2001 and 2011, police were aware of a history of domestic violence between the victim and the aggressor.

In far too many cases, offenders that have been arrested and subsequently released go on to kill their spouse anyway. It is crucial that conditional release provisions be strengthened in the Criminal Code; otherwise, increasingly younger innocent victims will lose their lives.

Another aspect of Bill C-75 I strongly oppose is the change to the victim surcharge. The Conservatives support victims of crime and believe that they deserve better. Bill C-75 is a reintroduction of Bill C-28, which was introduced two years ago and gives courts the flexibility to waive or reduce the victim surcharge when a person convicted of a crime convinces the court that such a payment would cause undue hardship.

On behalf of victims of crime, I feel it is my duty to vote against Bill C-75. Despite taking some steps in the right direction, it takes far too many in the wrong direction, I believe. Unfortunately, victims of crime do not yet have themselves an advocate in Canada's Liberal government.

Motions in amendmentCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 8th, 2018 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, as you know, I am always pleased to rise to speak to bills that mean a lot to me or bills that I am not entirely comfortable with.

Today I will be speaking to second reading of Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

On reading this large, 302-page omnibus bill, many of my colleagues agree or might agree that this bill is quite dense and complex and that it tries to slip important changes under the radar.

I cannot help point out that it was introduced in the middle of day on the eve of Good Friday as the House was about to adjourn for a week. Nice try, whoever was trying to sneak this through, especially when three new government bills were already on the Order Paper: Bill C-28, an act to amend the Criminal Code in regard to the victim surcharge, Bill C-38, an act to amend An Act to amend the Criminal Code in regard to exploitation and trafficking in persons, and Bill C-39, an act to amend the Criminal Code in regard to unconstitutional provisions and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Given that this bill makes a number of changes to the Criminal Code, most of my speech will focus on the amendments that, I would argue and so would many victims of crime and their loved ones, totally contradict what the Liberals say when they claim that victims are being considered, that they care about victims' rights and that they are committed to upholding those rights. The reality is a far cry from that.

The Liberals are always quick to put criminals first. It seems to be their first instinct.

We do not have to look too far to see some very recent examples of that. Consider the case of the criminal Terri-Lynne McClintic, who brutally and savagely murdered a little girl, eight-year-old Tori Stafford, yet she was transferred to a healing lodge after spending just nine years behind bars and even though she is not eligible for parole until 2031, and Tori's family was never given prior notice of the transfer.

Only after dozens and dozens of interventions in the House by the opposition parties, an open letter to the Prime Minister from little Tori's father, the arrival of many protesters on Parliament Hill, and pressure from all Canadians who found the transfer to be unacceptable, inconceivable and disrespectful did the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness finally decide to take action.

It was only yesterday, after far too many weeks of waiting and unnecessary suffering for Tori's family and because of all the public pressure in this regard, that the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness finally asked Correctional Service Canada to make the transfer policies more stringent.

However, we do not yet know whether this serious mistake has been corrected. We do not know whether Ms. McClintic is back behind bars where she should be. That is of little consolation to Tori's family and to Canadians.

The minister has apparently also asked Correctional Service Canada to improve its policies for the transfer of medium-security offenders to institutions without controlled perimeters precisely because these changes could help convince the public that our correctional system holds guilty parties responsible.

Canadians were outraged by Ms. McClintic's transfer, but above all they were extremely disappointed to see—

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2018 / 1 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with my remarkable colleague from Cariboo—Prince George. I use the word “remarkable” because the word “incredible” has been overused for him recently.

I am proud to speak today to Bill C-83, which amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. This is also known as another case of Liberals putting interests of criminals ahead of everyone else, with little thought put into it. It should not be confused with Liberal Bill C-71, or Bill C-75, or Bill C-28, or any other myriad number of bills in which they have put criminal rights ahead of those of regular citizens.

We all know the horrific story of the case of Ashley Smith and her unfortunate death. That never should have happened within our prison system, and the government should make moves to prevent situations like that from recurring. However, it should not impose a poorly thought-out, outright ban on segregation.

There are some good parts to the bill and I congratulate the government on it. I support the idea of body scans to prevent contraband and drugs coming into prisons, but it should be extended to everyone entering the prison, not just certain people. I also like that it gives more consideration to indigenous offenders.

But, and it is a big but, there are a few key points in the bill that would directly impact the safety and security of our corrections officers and those who need segregation for their own safety. This is another example of the government's obsession with making criminals' lives easier while making our front-line officers' jobs more dangerous.

I want to talk about the reality of the most common use of segregation. Inmates who commit crimes in prison do not always get the segregation. Very often, it is the victims who are segregated to protect them from those inmates. It is often used as a means of ensuring the safety of the targeted inmate from further assault, often because the target does not want to name the inmate who assaulted them. This means the assaults continue and the inmate who went into a segregation unit has to eventually reintegrate somewhere else in another unit or institution, or even in another region in the country.

It is relatively uncommon that segregation is ordered as a disciplinary sanction. In fact, most inmates view segregation time as a holiday rather than a consequence, especially since they must receive all their possessions, such as a television and their other belongings on their property card, within 24 hours of admission.

A report from CBC that came out last April quoted the Ontario Public Service Employees Union as saying that segregation isn't the deterrent it once was, because the maximum time inmates can spend in segregation has been halved and increased privileges for those in segregation mean that inmates are no longer as skittish about being sent there. It also confirmed that in fact there are not enough segregation units, at least in Ontario, because most are being used by inmates who have mental health issues.

That is the provincial system, but it correlates to the federal system as well. It leaves violent inmates out in the general population, where they can continue to commit assaults against other inmates and corrections officers themselves.

Another CBC report quotes an officer as saying, “Where [the more violent inmates] used to be in separate containers, now they're all in one bag, and we're just waiting for one to go off. And that sets the rest of them off and you end up with murders, stabbings, slashing, and officer injuries higher than ever.”

Another officer is quoted as saying, “The inmates, they can get away with a lot more than they used to in the past, and that contributes to the growing violence and the crisis in corrections.”

As I mentioned, with previous changes to segregation policies the maximum time in segregation has already been cut in half. Also, the increase in privileges available to those in segregation means it is not as strong a deterrent as it used to be. All removing segregation does, especially disciplinary segregation, is soften reprisals for bad behaviour. Inmates know there is one less tool for correctional officers to use to maintain order and ensure their own safety and that of other inmates.

A CBC report from September 2017 indicated that the stricter limits on segregation have led to a massive upswing in inmate assaults. Between 2012 and 2017, the number of violent repeat offences after leaving segregation increased 50%.

Statistics released recently for corrections in Ontario show close to 800 reported incidents in 2016. By halfway through 2017, the last time we had the numbers available, there were almost as many violent incidents in our prisons. The report quotes Jason Godin, president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, who pointed out that segregation is a tool for a reason and that restrictive policies only transfer the problem of violence.

The creation and integration of structured intervention units makes violent and non-violent inmates equal, regardless of the quality of their conduct while they serve their time. They get access to four hours per day outside their cells from the structured units, and they also get two hours of “significant human contact”. This is going to require significant increases in resources for the officers, but there is no money set aside for this.

Now, every time someone is moved into segregation, or out of segregation for their two hours out in the open, it requires two officers to accompany them. That is for the safety of the officers, to ensure they always have enough manpower to protect themselves. Where is this money going to come from?

If we look at the government's departmental plan signed by the Minister of Public Safety, allowing for inflation it is actually cutting 8.8% of the funding to Correctional Service Canada over the next four years. Where is this money coming from?

I am sure the minister did not even look at the plan before he signed off on it, and I am sure my colleagues across the way have not read the plan either. It actually calls for a reduction in officers in Correctional Service Canada over the next years, but it is going to increase the workload and the costs of these units with what money? We do not know.

The officers themselves are left with one less tool that allows them to deter assaults and violence from taking place in the cellblocks. Corrections officers already face a host of challenges. Even though it is their choice to work in these jobs, keep in mind that these men and women are still in a prison themselves. They are subjected to the same environment that the inmates are.

Statistics from a 2018 report prepared for the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers show that between 60% and 65% of correctional officers report their work has a negative impact on their life away from work. A substantial proportion of correctional officers, about 75%, report that the psychological demands of their job have increased in the last five years. Nearly 55% of long-serving officers report that their physical ability to properly do their work is worse or much worse in the last few years. The report summarizes:

[T]here is a particularly poor fit between interest in work and the psychological and mental disposition of [the] officers...on the one hand, and the environment and working conditions set out and maintained by CSC, on the other. Such a poor fit cannot go on forever, nor be ignored, other than to the detriment of both the correctional officers...as well as public interest as embodied in CSC's mandate and social mission.

I want to look at an another area where the government has failed our corrections officers. They are one of the main victims of the Liberal Phoenix fiasco. Roughly 85% of corrections officers across the country have been affected by Phoenix. This is because many of them are shift workers with irregular schedules that require manual entry into the system, something the government could have prevented had it not botched the entire rollout.

In fact, the Treasury Board was specifically told this was a failure in the Phoenix system when it was doing the pre-testing, yet the government chose to ignore it, just like the President of the Treasury Board ignored the Gartner report when it advised not to proceed with Phoenix.

I find it very amusing that the President of the Treasury Board justifies his meddling in the Davie supply ship contract on behalf of Irving as part of his job, but apparently it was not part of his job to act on the Gartner report on Phoenix, which, by the way, he commissioned himself.

The UCCO president has already called for help for its members because, like many public servants, they are renegotiating their mortgages and taking out loans to ensure they can keep a roof over their heads because of the pay problems. Unfortunately, we do not see an end in sight for those suffering from the Phoenix pay problems.

I want to talk about the government's priorities. I mentioned before that its priorities seems to be on criminals, not on average Canadians. Page 210 of last year's budget proposes $21.4 million for the mental health needs of RCMP officers and the same amount for the mental health needs of federal inmates. There are a lot more RCMP officers than there are inmates. For the average RCMP officer, the people putting their lives on the line every day and fighting for us, we have from the government $1,100 per officer for mental health. For prisoners, it is $1,400. Where is the justice?

Of 1,400 words in the CSC's much-ballyhooed mandate letter, the first time a corrections services lead has had a mandate letter, there were 24 words on victims and 52 on the workers. Those 52 words on the workers included such gems as, “I encourage you to instill within CSC a culture of ongoing self-reflection.”

There are the government's priorities in a nutshell: more money for criminals, less for the RCMP and for our valued officers in the prisons. Perhaps it is time for self-reflection on the issue.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 8:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments and also for his service to our country, especially to the city of Toronto.

As I mentioned earlier, the bill is made up of three separate bills that have already been tabled in the House: Bill C-28, Bill C-38, and Bill C-39. One deals with the victim surcharge, one with exploitation and trafficking, and one with unconstitutional provisions, which we support.

During the last campaign, in 2015, we heard over and over from Liberal members that there would be no omnibus bills, there would be no closure, and MPs would be allowed to speak individually and have adequate time for debate.

There are so many promises that have been broken. How can the member and his colleagues stand here tonight and speak to the bill, which is clearly an omnibus bill? We support many parts of it, but because of the fact that the Liberals rolled three bills into one, it made it impossible for us to even accept some of the good things in it without buying into all of these very negative implications, which I outlined earlier.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2018 / 8:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the constituents of Kitchener—Conestoga to participate in the debate on Bill C-75, the omnibus Liberal justice bill.

This bill is over 300 pages long and amends several different acts. One does not have to look too far into the past to recollect some of the comments made by members of the Liberal Party in regard to omnibus legislation. I am sure that many of us in this House remember the promises made during the all-candidates debate in the 2015 election not to have more omnibus bills, and many others as well. I will refer to those a little bit later tonight in my comments. However, it seems as if the Liberals have kept their reputation and have changed their minds to suit their own interests. It is a reputation they have developed quite well.

Not only is it a very lengthy bill, but its timing is also suspect, given that on the eve of the Easter long weekend, the Liberal government tabled this piece of legislation that would drastically change our criminal justice system and how criminals and victims are treated. We see again in this bill that the needs of victims are discounted and the lighter treatment of criminals is a priority of the Liberal government.

Tabling Bill C-75 on the eve of the Easter weekend, just prior to the two-week parliamentary break, clearly shows that the government knew it would not go over too well with Canadians or members of the legal community. That, in fact, is definitely what has happened since the tabling of this bill, in spite of the best efforts of the Liberal Party to hide these facts from Canadians.

Another interesting fact about this piece of legislation is that it re-tables three bills already on the Order Paper: Bill C-28, Bill C-38, and Bill C-39 have all been rolled into this new bill, Bill C-75. If anything speaks to the government's inability to handle a legislative agenda, this is surely it. The government has proven to be so badly organized that it is now just combining several previously tabled pieces of legislation in order to make broader changes to our criminal justice system in less time with less scrutiny, and less debate. It is a real shame, especially, as I said earlier, when during the 2015 campaign they promised to allow all members of Parliament to have a voice, and that the government would not use omnibus bills. They also promised that that election would be the last first-past-the-post election, and that they would run small deficits and not use time allocation. All of those promises are out the window with no respect shown for Parliament.

A primary stated objective of Bill C-75 is to reduce delays in our justice system. The R. v. Jordan ruling, which imposes strict time limits on criminals, has made this objective very important. It is a crucial issue that needs to be addressed.

Thousands of criminal trials across Canada have been stayed, including those involving murderers who have been charged. The reason these charges have been stayed is that the time limits imposed by R. versus Jordan were exceeded.

However, we know that this legislation does not achieve the objective. Do not take my word for it. A number of members of the legal community and journalists have also written about this. For example, an opinion piece in the Toronto Star stated:

On Thursday, the federal government released Bill C-75, an omnibus bill aimed at reducing court delays. Unfortunately, good intentions stop at the preamble, especially for those of us who believed in the government’s pre-election promise to bring a principled approach to criminal justice reform.

The author goes on to state:

However, C-75 reclassifies a myriad of offences, giving the Crown discretion to prosecute them summarily. To further incentivize this option, the bill increases the maximum penalty for summary offences from six months to two years. Summary offence trials, like preliminary inquiries, occur in provincial courts, which are already the most congested courts in our system. C-75 may very well take many preliminary inquiries off the provincial court docket, but it will replace them with many more trials.

What has proposed here are more backlogs, more delays, longer time limits. This justice minister is abdicating her responsibility to ensure that there is a functional justice system in Canada.

We see this inability to ensure a functional justice system with this current legislation, as well as with this Liberal government's extremely poor record of appointing judges.

I have one more comment from a legal expert from McElroy Law, a firm located right in Ottawa. She notes, “Under Stephen Harper, the Conservatives justice policies drew a clear line in the sand between criminals and victims. It was an easy sell to promise law-abiding citizens that those convicted of criminal offences will be punished harshly, in order to keep the good guys safe.”

She goes on later to say:

...the government is tinkering with the guts of criminal trials themselves, such as seeking to have police provide evidence by way of affidavit and having an accused person apply to be able to cross-examine them. The changes, if the bill is passed, will not aid in reducing delay, but will instead undermine trial fairness and may adversely affect Indigenous and other marginalized communities that are so often over-represented in our justice system.

Taken from the Ottawa citizen is the following:

Bill C-75 promises to speed up court cases by eliminating preliminary hearings for all but the most serious matters. Also, quietly slipped into the bill is a provision that would allow Crown prosecutors to simply file written copies of police officers’ evidence instead of actually calling them at trial to testify. Not only will these changes waste more court time than they save, they will erode fundamental safeguards of trial fairness.

The number one responsibility of a government is to keep its citizens safe, and this bill is seriously failing in that responsibility. It seems the government, despite all of its comments about “rigid ideology”, is clearly implementing its own rigid ideology without proper consultation with experts and lawyers in the field who are actually going to be dealing with the ramifications of this poor legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I have just been informed that I am sharing my time with the hon. member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner. I thought I had 20 minutes, but I guess I will have to move quickly.

I have not yet addressed the aspects of the bill that my colleagues and I consider to be the most egregious. I am going to move to those now, as I see my time is elapsing quickly.

Some of the offences that would see penalty decreases include, but are not limited to, leaving Canada to participate in a terrorist group or participation in the activity of a terrorist group. The bill proposes to actually reduce the penalties for these crimes, and it is important that Canadians understand that.

There is a long list of criminal offences that the government appears to think are not worthy of indictable charges: leaving Canada to participate in the activity of a terrorist group; punishment of rioter and concealment of identity; breach of trust by a public officer; municipal corruption; influencing or negotiating appointments or dealing in offices; prison breach; infanticide; concealing the body of a child; neglect to obtain assistance in child birth that results in the permanent injury or death of the child; assisting a prisoner of war to escape; obstructing or violence to, or arrest of, an officiating clergyman; keeping a common bawdy house; causing bodily harm by criminal negligence; and impaired driving causing bodily harm. The bill proposes to reduce the sentences for all of these offences.

One of the hybrid offences that the bill adds to the sequence is the obstruction of, or violence toward, an officiating clergyman. This is in section 176. This is the same section that the government proposed to repeal in Bill C-51, the justice omnibus bill. However, eventually it caved in to public uproar and feedback that was carried by our opposition members. Clearly, the government is not listening to the thousands of Canadians who are very concerned by the softening of punishment for this crime. The government is trying to diminish the severity of this crime. The issue is of crucial importance, especially now, given there is an increasing concern about sectarian violence in our world.

I could go on and speak for another 10 minutes, but hopefully I will get a chance to finish later.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 11:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to hear from the member on this particular piece of proposed legislation. It is a combination of three other justice bills, namely Bill C-28, the victims surcharge bill; Bill C-38, the exploitation and trafficking in persons bill, which I know the member has a great interest in, as he has formed a bipartisan group of legislators in the House to study the issue much more deeply; and Bill C-39, the unconstitutional provisions bill.

I would like the member speak on the fact that the bill is a few hundred pages of what would otherwise be considered an omnibus justice bill, as it combines different parts of the justice system into one bill.

Does the bill speak to the failure of the Liberals to push forward reforms in our justice system in a meaningful way and in a reasonable time line?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2018 / 9:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague's speech. He is very learned and comes from a profession that understands things well. I did pass through law school at one time, but decided that another profession was of more interest to me, so my speech will probably be a little more the layman's type, and will probably have some rhetoric in it that I am sure he will rather enjoy.

I will be speaking on Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts. That is quite the title, and it probably should come as no surprise that it is an omnibus bill. It makes massive reforms to our criminal justice system, and in fact, it re-tables three bills already on the Order Paper: Bill C-28, on the victim surcharge; Bill C-38, on consecutive sentencing for human trafficking; and Bill C-39, which repeals unconstitutional provisions.

The government simply cannot seem to manage its legislative agenda. It waited until late in its mandate, and now Parliament is expected to rush through debate on these important matters.

What is apparent is that Bill C-75 is a big, complicated bill that is supposed to fix the issues facing our justice system. It does contain provisions that I could support. Repealing unconstitutional provisions in the Criminal Code is a positive proposal. Increasing the maximum term for repeat offenders involved in domestic violence also makes a lot of sense.

However, the bill also introduces a host of other issues. This legislation should have been split so we could have debated and voted on some of its parts, rather than as an omnibus bill. There is far too much here to be considered in such a short time. The Liberals promised they would not introduce an omnibus bill, but here we are.

We have known for a long time that our justice system is dangerously backlogged. A primary stated objective of Bill C-75 is to reduce delays in our justice system. The R. v. Jordan ruling, now known as the Jordan rule or principle, imposes strict timelines on criminal trials: 30 months for the criminals, and 18 months for the indictable.

This objective is very important. Thousands of criminal trials across Canada have been stayed, including murder trials, for going over the imposed time limits. We have seen the stories of individuals accused of horrendous crimes being let off because of massive delays in the court system. The problem is only getting worse, but this bill is finally supposed to do something about this serious problem.

Before I get into the details of this bill, I have to ask: Why has this government not taken steps to appoint more judges? It has been pointed out that the government has appointed many, but we still have 59 vacancies. Let us get them all filled so that we can improve the justice system. Appointing judges may have been a faster way to address the delays in our justice system, rather than forcing an omnibus bill through Parliament. I know that the Liberals have left appointments unfilled in other government agencies, but the judicial ones are critical. At the very least, they need to fill those. I am sure that is something they will do quickly, right?

The biggest red flag in this legislation is the hybridization of many indictable-only offences, done by adding summary convictions as a sentencing option. Simply put, serious crimes deserve serious penalties, but some of the offences listed in the bill are undoubtedly, to me and many of my constituents, serious crimes. These include participating in a terrorist group; impaired driving causing bodily harm; kidnapping a minor; possessing stolen property over $5,000, which is a huge concern in my rural riding; participating in activities of a criminal organization; municipal corruption or influencing a municipal official; committing infanticide; extortion by libel; advocating genocide; arson for fraudulent purpose; advertising and dealing in counterfeit money; and many more. There are a lot of serious crimes in here that are going to change. Many of these crimes are classified as indictment-only for a reason. They should not be punishable under a summary conviction, with a possible mere fine. That option has been included, and it should not be there.

The bill would also delay consecutive sentencing for human traffickers. Human trafficking is a severe crime. There is a cross-party committee dealing with this crime. It is a severe problem and deserves severe punishment. We know it is taking place in Canada. It is an international issue that needs to be combatted with all the tools at our disposal. Why would the government weaken our criminal justice system with these changes? We all need to address the backlogs in our courts system, but some of these measures just do not make sense.

In my riding of Bow River, we have been dealing with serious issues involving rural crime. I am happy that motion by the member for Lakeland, Motion No. 167, was passed last week in this House. I believe it will be an important step toward actually doing something about rural crime. The statistics show that crime in rural areas has increased significantly in all three prairie provinces. However, right on the heels of adopting this important motion, we have this bill taking two steps backwards. This is going to be hard to explain to the constituents in my riding who are dealing with constant rural crime. Residents across the country are going to be shaking their heads in disbelief at this one. I have heard from many constituents who have suffered break-ins, property theft, and threats to person. We have held round tables in locations in ridings across Alberta and heard from many people who are living in fear. They do not have confidence that the criminal acts taking place around their homes will be addressed. In many cases, the RCMP is simply stretched too thinly across the vast rural areas to respond promptly.

I am particularly concerned that this bill would relax sentences for crimes like possession of stolen property and participating in criminal gangs. It is hard enough to catch criminals engaged in rural crimes. In many cases, the criminals are long gone before anyone can show up to deal with them. When it takes police officers hours or until the next day to get to the scene, there is plenty of time to disappear. This is not like crime in a city where people reasonably expect police to show up on their doorstep in minutes. When criminals are caught, there is a reasonable expectation that they will face serious consequences for their actions. It is hard enough to convince people to report crimes when they occur. We encourage them to do so because it is very important for the statistics of the police services. The police need to know what is actually happening in communities, but people are afraid to report crimes, or they say it is a waste of time. The police need the statistics to make decisions related to how to best enforce the law, but my constituents do not always believe they will make any difference in the justice system anymore. It is going to be that much harder to encourage people to report rural crimes if this bill receives royal assent. At a bare minimum, people need to know that if they report a crime and the criminal responsible is actually apprehended, there will be serious consequences for that individual. We need real deterrents, not slaps on the wrist, to keep Canadians' faith in the justice system.

They talk about Alberta judges, and yes, we are short of judges, but here is the other side of it. I have spoken with legal people and they say that the number of crown prosecutors is drastically short. There are few crown prosecutors willing to do it. As the number of crown prosecutors has decreased, there are fewer of them who will work on this huge workload. The average caseload that crown prosecutors have is twice what it used to be years ago. Legal aid lawyers are quitting. The pay they are getting has decreased, or they are not being paid at all. If they are moving to summary convictions, two years less a day, the jails are full. I have seen downloading from governments before; this is a huge download from the federal government to the provincial governments. They are going to download into the provinces' judicial systems by changing convictions from indictable to summary convictions. As the prosecutors have told me, they have been told to clear the docket and keep only the very serious cases and kick all the rest of the cases out, not to take them to court but to get the charges dropped, to kick them out.

There is a joke around the provincial jail system that if there is an arrest for car theft, the officers should make sure their car is locked when the criminal goes out the door, because the criminal is likely to steal their car to go home. With the shortage of prosecutors, the time that is available to put people in jail for two years less a day is a huge download to the provincial system.

It is especially wrong that this bill is being introduced at the same time we are considering Bill C-71. That bill would do nothing to address rural crime and gang violence. Nothing in it would make a difference to the criminals using illegal firearms. All the bill does is target law-abiding firearms owners with new, poorly designed, heavy-handed regulations.

Farmers in my riding make use of all kinds of firearms on their property. Firearms are basic to rural life in many cases. I have heard from many constituents who are very concerned about Bill C-71. Why would the government treat farmers like criminals, while reducing sentences for rural criminals at the same time? Summary convictions and fines are just kicking the cases out, because there is no time to deal with them.

Again, it makes no sense. The government's agenda is looking increasingly incoherent, especially from the perspective of rural residents. Will these measures do anything to reduce the backlog? No. They are just downloading the problem on the provinces. Just as Chrétien did with the transfer payments, the current government is going to do it with the judicial system to download to the provinces.

Our legal institutions are overwhelmed by the number of cases that need to be addressed. The bill could stretch them to a breaking point, as the crown prosecutors in Alberta told me. We could have many more cases thrown out for taking too long. Jordan's principle is going to come in and many people will walk the street because of it. In other words, criminals will walk. That is not a result anyone wants to see, especially when rural crime is involved. It is deeply painful for victims of crime and it is dangerous for the Canadian public at large to lose faith in the justice system, like the rural residents in my constituency.

The government seems to be dumping more problems on provinces and municipalities. It leaves them to clean up the mess. We have already seen how the government has done this with cannabis legislation. Its approach has left provinces and municipalities scrambling to accommodate the new laws and pay for their implementation.

I have heard from town councillors across my constituency how concerned they are about the cannabis legalization and how they are going to pay for it. They do not know how the small towns and villages will handle all the issues that are coming down the pipe, just like the carbon tax. The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association has expressed grave doubts about how its members are going to get ready for legalization. It has been conveying these concerns to the government for a long time, but the Liberals are not listening.

The federal government simply punts its problems on to subnational governments and claims to have taken action. That is exactly what it did with the cannabis legalization, and that trend is continuing with Bill C-75. We need real leadership, not just passing the buck to the provinces.

The legislation would weaken our criminal justice system by relaxing the sentences for many serious crimes. That list was not even the extent of it. It is a very broad bill. It downloads the delays in our court system onto the provinces. It also changes the victim surcharge, which is a deeply disappointing departure from our former government's priority of putting victims first. It would remove the requirement of the attorney general to determine whether to seek an adult sentence in certain circumstances. It would remove the power of a youth justice court to make an order to lift the ban on publication in the case of a young person who receives a youth sentence for a violent offence. It would delay consecutive sentencing for human traffickers, and that is wrong. It would make our justice system more like a revolving door than it is now. It would make rural crime in my riding and across Canada even harder to deal with, and it would make people not trust the justice system.

We need to deal with the problems in our justice system, but this is not the way to do it. This is simply a huge, poorly designed bill. It would make many changes that I simply cannot support.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 4:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-75, another omnibus bill introduced by a government that said it would never introduce an omnibus bill, but here we are again with another 300-page bill.

Quite frankly, there are some provisions in Bill C-75 that I support, but on the whole I believe this legislation to be deeply problematic.

Before I address the substance of Bill C-75, I want to talk a bit about the process surrounding Bill C-75.

This omnibus legislation reintroduces four government bills currently before the House of Commons: Bill C-28, Bill C-32, Bill C-38 and Bill C-39. This is the third piece of legislation the government has introduced to repeal section 159 of the Criminal Code, the unconstitutional section related to anal sex.

With much fanfare, the Liberals introduced Bill C-32. They wanted to take tremendous credit for introducing that bill that proposes to repeal section 159. It was such a priority for the government that a year and a half later, Bill C-32 remains stuck at first reading.

Not to be outdone, they proceeded to introduce Bill C-39, which would remove unconstitutional sections of the Criminal Code, also known as zombie laws. That included section 159 of the Criminal Code. It was introduced on March 8, 2017, and it was such a priority of the government that more than a year later, Bill C-39 remains stuck at first reading.

Now, for the third time, the government has introduced, with Bill C-75, another attempt to remove section 159 of the Criminal Code.

How many bills is it going to take the Liberal government to repeal one simple section of the Criminal Code? It speaks to the utter incompetence of the government and its complete inability to move justice legislation forward. In light of that record of incompetence and failure, Canadians should be left to ask the question: how it is that the government can be trusted to address delay in our courts when it cannot even manage its own legislative agenda?

The purported objective of Bill C-75 is to deal with the backlog in our courts. It arises from the Jordan decision that was issued by the Supreme Court almost two years ago. The Supreme Court of Canada determined that there would be strict limits before delay would become presumptively unreasonable. The remedy that the Supreme Court provided in the case of delay was that the charges against the accused person would be stayed, in other words, thrown out of court. The strict timeline that the Supreme Court provided was 30 months between the laying of charges and the anticipated or actual conclusion of a trial for matters before superior courts, and 18 months for matters before provincial courts.

It has been almost two years since the Jordan decision and in those nearly two years, the Minister of Justice has sat on her hands and done absolutely nothing to deal with delay and backlog. The minister is so incompetent that she could not get around to doing the simplest and easiest thing, which is to fill judicial vacancies in a timely manner.

Under this Minister of Justice's watch, we have seen a record number of judicial vacancies. Indeed, the average number of vacancies has consistently been between 50 to 60. In the province of Alberta, where the issues of backlog and delay are most acute, the provincial government tried to respond in 2016, by way of order in council, establishing 10 new judicial positions, nine Court of Queen's Bench positions and one Alberta Court of Appeal position. The government, to its credit, in budget 2017, provided funding for additional judicial positions. All the minister had to do was fill them.

Do members know how long it took the minister to appoint a new judge in Alberta?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

May 24th, 2018 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Vancouver Granville B.C.

Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to speak to Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts. The legislation represents a key milestone in our government's commitment to modernize the criminal justice system, reduce delays, and ensure the safety of Canadians.

For more than a decade, the criminal justice system has been under significant strain. Although the crime rate in Canada has been declining, court cases are more complex, trials are getting longer, and the impacts on victims are compounded. In addition, indigenous people and marginalized Canadians, including those suffering from mental illness and addictions, continue to be overrepresented in the criminal justice system. For these reasons, I was mandated by the Prime Minister to reform the criminal justice system, and it is why I was proud to introduce this legislation as part of our government's response to those fundamental challenges.

Bill C-75 also responds to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in 2016 in R. v. Jordan. The decision established strict timelines beyond which delays would be presumptively unreasonable and cases would be stayed. In such cases, the accused will not stand trial. This is unacceptable, and it jeopardizes public confidence in the justice system.

The bill also addresses issues raised in the June 2017 report of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, which called on the government to address court delays, and it reflects our government's commitment to bring about urgent and bold reforms, many of which were identified as priorities by all provincial and territorial justice ministers in April and September of last year.

The bill proposes reforms in seven key areas. First, the bill would modernize and streamline the bail system. Second, it would enhance our approach to addressing administration of justice offences, including for youth. Third, it would bolster our response to intimate partner violence. Fourth, the bill would restrict the availability of preliminary inquiries to offences with penalties of life imprisonment. Fifth, it would reclassify offences to allow the crown to elect the most efficient procedure appropriate in the circumstances. Sixth, it would improve the jury selection process. Seventh, it would strengthen the case management powers of judges. The bill includes a number of additional reforms related to efficiencies, which I will touch on briefly later.

As noted, the first area of reform would modernize and streamline the bail regime. Under the charter, an accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. If charged with an offence, that person has the right not to be denied bail without just cause. The Supreme Court of Canada has repeatedly stated that bail, including the types of release and conditions imposed, must be reasonable, yet we know that police and courts routinely impose conditions that are too numerous, too restrictive, and at times directed toward improper objectives, such as behaviour and punishment. These objectives do not protect public safety.

We also know that there are more individuals in remand than those convicted of a crime. In other words, our correctional facilities are more than half-filled with people who have not been convicted of an offence.

In addition, the current approach to bail uses a disproportionate amount of resources, taking away from more serious cases. It perpetuates a cycle of incarceration.

Consistent with the 2017 Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Antic, the proposed bail reforms would codify a principle of restraint. This would direct police and judges to consider the least restrictive and most appropriate means of responding to criminal charges at the bail stage rather than automatically detaining an accused. The individual circumstances of an indigenous accused and a vulnerable accused, such as a homeless person or one with mental illness and addiction issues, would become required considerations when making bail decisions. This means that an accused's circumstances would have to be considered prior to placing conditions upon them that were difficult or impossible to follow.

The principle of restraint would make bail courts more efficient by encouraging release at the earliest possible opportunity, without the need for a bail hearing in every case, and would take significant steps to reduce costs associated with the growing remand population currently detained in custody awaiting trial.

The bill would also strengthen the way our bail system responds to intimate partner violence by providing better protection for victims. If an accused has a history of violence against an intimate partner and is charged with similar conduct, the amendments would impose a reverse onus at the bail hearing, shifting the responsibility to the accused to show why the accused should not be detained pending trial.

I will now turn to the second area of reform proposed in Bill C-75, which is to enhance the way our justice system responds to administration of justice offences. These are offences that are committed by a person against the justice system itself after another offence has already been committed or alleged. Common examples are failure to comply with bail conditions, such as to abstain from consuming alcohol; failure to appear in court; or breaching a curfew.

Across Canada, accused people are routinely burdened with complex and unnecessary bail conditions that are unrelated to public safety and that may even be impossible to follow, such as when a curfew is broken by an accused because he or she missed the bus in a remote area. In other words, accused people are being placed in circumstances in which a breach is virtually inevitable. We are setting them up to fail.

Indigenous people and marginalized Canadians are disproportionately impacted by breach charges, often because of their personal circumstances, such as a lack of family and community supports. As a result, indigenous people and marginalized Canadians are more likely to be charged, more likely to be denied bail, and if released, more likely to be subject to stricter conditions.

In addition, administration of justice offences impose an enormous burden on the criminal justice system, as nearly 40% of all adult cases involve at least one of these administrative charges. To respond to these challenges, Bill C-75 proposes a new approach. Police would retain the option to lay a new charge for the breach or failure to appear where appropriate. However, if the offence did not involve physical or emotional harm to a victim, property damage, or economic loss, the police would have an additional option of referring the accused to a judicial referral hearing. This would be an entirely new tool that would serve as an alternative to an unnecessary criminal charge and that would substantially increase court efficiencies without impacting public safety.

In the youth context, these proposals would encourage police to first consider the use of informal measures, as already directed by the Youth Criminal Justice Act, such as warnings, cautions, and referrals, and would require that conditions imposed on young persons be reasonable and necessary. This aligns with the overall philosophy of the act, which is to prevent our youth from entering a life of crime, in part by providing alternatives to formal criminal charges and custody.

At the judicial referral hearing, a court would hear the bail conditions and have three options: release the accused on the same conditions, impose new conditions to better address the specific circumstances of the accused, or detain the accused. This approach would allow for alternative and early resolution of minor breaches and would ensure that only reasonable and necessary conditions were imposed. This is a more efficient alternative to laying a new criminal charge and would help prevent indigenous persons and marginalized Canadians from entering the revolving door of the criminal justice system.

The third area of reform in Bill C-75 is with respect to intimate partner violence. In 2015, Canadians elected our government on a promise to give more support to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual harassment and to ensure that more perpetrators were brought to justice. I am proud to follow through on this commitment within this bill.

As I already noted, those accused of repeat offences involving violence against an intimate partner would be subject to a reverse onus at the bail stage. In addition, the bill does the following: (1) proposes a higher sentencing range for repeat offences involving intimate partner violence; (2) broadens the definition of “intimate partner” to include dating partners and former partners; (3) provides that strangulation is an elevated form of assault; and (4) explicitly specifies that evidence of intimate partner abuse is an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.

Intimate partner violence is a reality for at least one in two women in Canada. Women who are indigenous, trans, elderly, new to Canada, or living with a disability are at increased risk for experiencing violence due to systemic barriers and failures. The personal and often lifelong consequences of violence against women are enormous.

The fourth area of reforms is to increase court efficiencies by limiting the availability of preliminary inquiries. Preliminary inquiries are an optional process used to determine whether there is enough evidence to send an accused to trial. Bill C-75 would limit their availability to accused adults charged with very serious offences punishable by life imprisonment, such as murder and kidnapping.

I recognize this represents a significant change. It is not a change we propose lightly. It is the product of an in-depth consultation process with my counterparts in the provinces and territories and with the courts, and it is based on the best available evidence. For instance, we know in 2015-2016, provincial court cases involving preliminary inquiries took more than four times longer to reach a decision than cases with no preliminary inquiry.

It is important to note that there is no constitutional right to a preliminary inquiry, and one is not necessary for a fair trial so long as the crown satisfies its disclosure requirements. In the Jordan decision, the Supreme Court of Canada asked Parliament to take a fresh look at current processes and reconsider the value of preliminary inquiries in light of the broad disclosure rules that exist today. The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs also recommended that they be restricted or eliminated.

The proposed measures would reduce the number preliminary of inquiries by approximately 87%, ensure they are still available for the more complex and serious offences, help unclog the courts, and reduce burdens on witnesses and victims from having to testify twice, once at a preliminary inquiry and once at trial. For example, this measure would eliminate the need for a vulnerable witness in a sexual assault or child sexual assault trial from having to testify twice.

I am confident these reforms would not reduce trial fairness, that prosecutors would continue to take their disclosure obligations seriously, that our courts would continue to uphold the right to make full answer and defence, and that there would remain flexibility in existing processes, such as out-of-court discoveries, that have been implemented in some provinces already—for example, in Quebec and Ontario.

I will now turn to the fifth major area of reform proposed in Bill C-75, which is the reclassification of offences. The Criminal Code classifies offences as summary conviction, indictable, or hybrid. Hybrid offences may proceed as either a summary conviction or as an indictable offence. That choice is made by the prosecutor after considering the facts and circumstances of the case. The bill would hybridize 136 indictable offences and standardize the default maximum penalty for summary conviction offences in the Criminal Code to two years less a day.

These proposals would neither interfere with the court's ability to impose proportionate sentences nor change the existing maximum penalties for indictable offences. What Bill C-75 proposes is to provide more flexibility to prosecutors to proceed summarily in provincial court for less serious cases. This would allow for matters to proceed more quickly and for superior courts to focus on the most serious matters, resulting in an overall boost in efficiency in the system.

Let me clear: this reform is in no way intended to send a message that offences being hybridized are less serious or should be subjected to lower sentences. Rather, it is about granting greater discretion to our prosecutors to choose the most efficient and appropriate procedure, having regard to the unique circumstances before them. Serious offences would continue to be treated seriously and milder offences would take up less court time, while still carrying the gravity of a criminal charge.

A sixth area of proposed reforms in Bill C-75 is with respect to jury selection.

Discrimination in the selection of juries has been well documented for many years. Concerns about discrimination in peremptory challenges and its impact on indigenous peoples being represented on juries was raised back in 1991 by Senator Murray Sinclair, then a judge, in the Manitoba aboriginal justice inquiry report. That report, now over 25 years old, explicitly called for the repeal of peremptory challenges. More recently, retired Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci addressed these issues in his 2013 report on first nations representation on Ontario juries.

Reforms in this area are long overdue. Peremptory challenges give the accused and the crown the ability to exclude jurors without providing a reason. In practice, this can and has led to their use in a discriminatory manner to ensure a jury of a particular composition. This bill proposes that Canada join countries like England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland in abolishing them.

To bring more fairness and transparency to the process, the legislation would also empower a judge to decide whether to exclude jurors challenged for cause by either the defence or prosecution. The legislation will strengthen the power of judges to stand aside some jurors in order to make room for a more diverse jury that will in turn promote confidence in the administration of justice. Courts are already familiar with the concept of exercising their powers for this purpose.

I am confident that the reforms will make the jury selection process more transparent, promote fairness and impartiality, improve the overall efficiency of our jury trials, and foster public confidence in the criminal justice system.

The seventh area of reforms will strengthen judicial case management. As the Supreme Court of Canada noted in its 2017 decision in Cody, judges are uniquely positioned to encourage and foster culture change. I completely agree. Judges are already engaged in managing cases and ensuring that they proceed promptly and fairly through the existing authorities in the Criminal Code, as well as provincial court rules. These reforms would bolster these powers—for instance, by allowing case management judges to be appointed at the earliest point in the proceeding.

In addition to the major reforms I have noted thus far, Bill C-75 will make technical amendments to further support efficiencies, such as by facilitating remote technology and consolidating and clarifying the Attorney General of Canada's power to prosecute.

Finally, the bill will make better use of limited parliamentary time by including three justice bills currently before Parliament: Bill C-28, Bill C-38, and Bill C-39.

In closing, Bill C-75 proposes meaningful reforms that will speed up criminal court proceedings and improve the safety of our communities while also taking steps to address the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples and marginalized Canadians in the criminal justice system.

Our criminal justice system must be fair, equitable, and just. Victims, families, accused, and all participants in the justice system deserve no less. I urge all members of this House to support this important piece of legislation.

JusticeRoutine Proceedings

February 1st, 2017 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Vancouver Granville B.C.

Liberal

Jody Wilson-Raybould LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table, in both official languages, the charter statement on Bill C-28, an act to amend the Criminal Code (victim surcharge).